As Ross Brawn, Formula 1 Managing Director of Motorsports once said: ‘’He is the reference point, the best driver I have ever seen.’’
Today, on the eve of the 50th birthday of one of greatest drivers in the history of Formula 1, many of us, including myself, sit here remembering the greatness of my childhood hero Michael Schumacher and his innumerable achievements.
He started his F1 career with the Jordan-Ford team in 1991, then Benetton from 1991 to 1995 with whom he won his first two World Championships in 1994 and 1995. After this he took on the monumental task of building back up the Scuderia, with Ross Brawn and Jean Todt when they joined Ferrari in 1996. The first few years saw little improvement, until the incredible build-up of Michael’s first Championship with Ferrari in 2000. That day in Suzuka still brings tears to my eyes as it was Ferrari’s first World Title in 21 years, since Jody Scheckter in 1979. It felt like everything finally came together to create that special moment; the team’s hard work, Michael’s talent and their combined burning desire to win.
The Golden Era
This however was only the start of the most successful team and driver in history as they went on to dominate and win for the next 5 consecutive years, a period I like to call the Golden Era. From 2000 till 2004, Michael was unbeatable, a time where I was just growing up as a five year old, every weekend I would watch with my eyes glued to the TV screen along with my dad in suburban England as the bright red flash of his F2004 ruled the track, winning 12 of the first 13 races that year.
Schumacher was a lot more than just a racing driver. Ross Brawn said that no matter what team he worked with, not a single one had a negative thing to say about Schumacher, described as kind, private, focused, blisteringly fast and extremely professional. Throughout his career, Schumacher raced against arguably some of the best drivers the sport has ever seen: Aryton Senna, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. One of his greatest rivals was Mika Häkkinen, but although they had intense battles on track, they were very close friends.
Schumacher retired in 2006 and came back three years later under Mercedes and Ross Brawn. Sadly, he was unable to achieve anything significant due to the package being slower. Then in 2013, Schumacher suffered a very unfortunate skiing accident where he sustained severe brain injuries.
Nonetheless, we all hold a lot of love for him, have his family in our hearts and pray for his recovery. In his 19 year career, Schumacher scored an unbeaten record breaking 7 World Championships, 91 race wins and 155 podiums. He is undeniably the best driver in the history of Formula 1 and my personal hero.